Making the invisible visible: Discussing guns in rural suicide prevention

Jun 14, 2012

While youth suicide is declining overall, the rate of youth suicide in rural America has remained steady. A key to helping rural families with children at risk of suicide is frank discussion of guns says Jonathan Singer, assistant professor of social work at Temple University and co-author of a new study that examined how clinicians, including social workers and counselors involve parents in prevention and treatment of youth suicide. The study, "Engaging parents of suicidal youth in a rural environment" was published in the May issue of Child & Family Social Work.

Singer and his co-author, Karen Slovak of Ohio University, wanted to learn more about out how clinicians broke through barriers that keep parents in from getting help for their suicidal children. They were surprised to learn how clinicians addressed the issue of gun culture in this process.

"The clinicians in the study told us that were so prevalent in their communities, they were just part of the furniture," said Singer. "So a big part of their job is making the invisible, visible."

Once a clinician determines that a child is at risk for , it is up to the parents to bridge the gap between the clinician's initial assessment and follow-up treatment, which might include anything from short-term therapy to hospitalization to long-term counseling and medication. But there are several barriers to successfully engaging parents. Resistance, minimizing the risk, and shock are common reactions that parents have to the news that their child is suicidal. In addition to addressing these barriers, clinicians must address the immediate safety issue of a gun in the home. In rural communities this is a significant concern.

Guns are the most lethal means of suicide, said Singer. Even though girls attempt suicide four times more often as boys, boys die from suicide four times as often in large part because boys are more likely to use guns.

"In rural areas, we don't need to educate parents about guns. Everyone knows how they work. Instead we need to remind families they have guns and they are lethal," said Singer. "The conversation needs to focus on keeping guns secure and limiting access to guns. Clinicians need to say, 'Your son could use one of your guns to kill himself.'"

The researchers found that clinicians who related their own experience with guns had more credibility with . They hope the study will help improve treatment for children in rural areas at risk of suicide.

Explore further: Personalized advertising attracts more attention, makes the contents of ads easier to remember

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Guns in the home provide greater health risk than benefit

Apr 27, 2011

Despite the fact that nearly one-third of American households have a firearm, studies show that having a gun in the home poses a household a greater health risk than a potential benefit. A new study released in the American Jo ...

Pellet guns and children

Jan 16, 2012

Last week an eighth-grader in Brownsville was shot and killed when he refused to stand down and lower his weapon.

Recommended for you

Why are UK teenagers skipping school?

Dec 18, 2014

Analysis of the results of a large-scale survey reveals the extent of truancy in English secondary schools and sheds light on the mental health of the country's teens.

Fewer lectures, more group work

Dec 18, 2014

Professor Cees van der Vleuten from Maastricht University is a Visiting Professor at Wits University who believes that learning should be student centred.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.